Tuesday, January 28, 2014

I Missed my Normal P-day, so Letters Today

Hello Everyone!  Last week was absolutely crazy! I had to go back to Ribeirão Preto to register my visa.  That ends up being about a 6 hour trip by bus.  I arrived there the night of Wednesday with a couple of the others who had arrived in the mission the same time as me. We stayed in the apartment of the office Elders until the next day when we did our visa registration which was super easy.  We had to sign a paper and get our finger prints and it all went off without a problem.  Then as we were preparing to leave for the busses to return to our areas, the fun began.  The office Elders told me that I wouldn't be leaving today because one of my companions, Elder Leal, was getting transferred and the other would be coming with him to Ribeirão and I would go back with him when they would arrive that night.  But some time between me not getting on the bus and they getting on the bus, the Mission president changed his mind.  So I was stuck in Ribeirão and we didn't know if my companions were going to come at all.  Long story short the President changed his mind back but I didn't leave till Saturday. It was a little annoying but it was interesting because I got to see what the office Elders do.  It is a very misunderstood  assignment in my opinion.

But I am finally back in Votuporanga and I actually get to spend the entire week here for the first time.  I am pretty excited about that. We have a couple of promising investigators but we are still doing a lot of finding since we still have about zero progressing investigators.  But we are continuing forward, Elder De Oliveira and I.  I feel like the work is about to pick up here in Votu-por-agua (as a member called it). I hope this is true.

I hope you are all well.  I love you all!

Elder Russell   

P.S.  Some answers to Dad's questions:  The food is all kind of the same for me.  I like it but nothing really has stood out.  Member retention is about the same down here as in the US I believe, so around 45 to 50%.  We don't knock doors (or actually clap in front of fences since everyone has a fence in front of their house; and not like a white picket fence but like a FENCE, occasionally with barbed wire); but we have a mission goal to do 20 contacts a day and these are usually in the street since that is way easier.  At the moment we do focus a lot of effort on finding new investigators.  The Branch is nice, is small, and not particularly into missionary work; but I am beginning to think that the previous missionaries here weren't always the best so that might explain that.  

Saturday, January 25, 2014

I'm in Brazil

Hello everyone!  I am in Brazil.  A lot of stuff has happened in the last two weeks so I will have to tell it all quickly.  I arrived in the Ribeirão Preto airport last Tuesday with eight other American missionaries. We then had dinner with the President and his wife and then we all went to the office elder's apartment to sleep.  The next day we met our trainers and were told our first areas.  My trainer is Elder De Oliveira, but I am in a trio so my other companion (sort of a trainer but not officially) is Elder Leal.  They are both Brazilian so it has been a little difficult.  My first area is Votuporanga.  It is a smaller size city for Brazil but it has about 100,000 people in it.  We three are the only Elders there.  The entire city is ours.

I didn't get to Votuporanga until Thursday since we had district meeting that morning. We stayed in São Jose do Rio Preto (not to be confused with Ribeirão Preto) since the rest of our district works in Rio Preto.  That night we commenced to working.  We have not had a bunch of success as of yet because our investigators don't like to follow up on commitments. But we have a few prospective ones that I am really excited about even though I can only understand about half of what they are saying. There is only a branch in Votuparanga with about 40 active members but the ones I have met are super cool--even if I can't always understand them.

Speaking Portuguese 24/7 is difficult but not as bad as understanding other people. I can mostly understand my companions now (unless they just want to talk to each other and then they talk way too fast),  but everyone seems to talk a little bit different which makes it very difficult.  I will get there.  It has only been a week.

Some strange things about Brazil:  They have no carpets.  Even the church buildings are tiled. Also, Brazilians like their meat covered in salt before they cook it. It all tastes a little bit like jerky but I like it just fine.

I hope you are all doing well.  I love you all

Elder Russell   

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

My Last Week in the MTC

Today I would like to talk about something that is some strange false doctrine that begins to spring up here amongst missionaries going to Brazil.  It is regarding visas.  People seem to believe that getting your visa is some sort of sign of the truth of the Gospel.  I often hear the phrase, "I got my visa, the Church is true." These are unconnected statements.  A member of my district was asked by another missionary if he had his visa.  He said no and that he probably wasn't going to get it while he was here (because his paperwork is not all in yet).  The other Elder then responded that he needed to have more faith.  I want to know why you should have faith in receiving a visa!  We were called to be full-time missionaries who can be assigned anywhere. Every mission is just the same in the eyes of the Lord.  So getting a visa does not make a missionary a better person, or more faithful, or more important. More likely than not, it just means his paperwork went better.  My district will probably get reassigned next Thursday. Well half of my district, because half of us got visas, including me. I will be leaving for Brazil next Monday.  

I love you all.  

Elder Russell

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Christmas in the MTC and Portuguese

Hello Everyone!

Christmas in the MTC was an experience ótimo (which means great).  The crowning part was Elder Bednar coming to talk to us.  It was a very interesting talk because he handed out 200 cell phones to the crowd of missionaries and let us text questions that came up on an I-pad he had.  Missionaries in other MTC’s around the world could email in questions.  It was a really cool use of technology.  I could have listened to him speak all day but it was only an hour and a half, sadly.  The rest of Christmas was nice but pales in comparison to hearing an apostle of the Lord.  

The rest of the week has proceeded as normal.  We continue to learn and practice teaching.  We are now the "oldest" district in our zone and it is strange to think that in less than two weeks we will receive our reassignments. Reassignments are a big part of a Brazilian missionary MTC experience. Since none of us have gotten visas, it is basically like a second mission call.  I am not particularly worried about the whole thing.  I was called to be a missionary and I can be assigned anywhere the Lord wants me to go.  

Coolest things about Portuguese so far:  the words digno (worthy), jejum (a fast, like not eating), and diligentemente (diligently). Have Google Translate say them to you for the full effect of their awesomeness, or a Portuguese speaker.

Worst thing about Portuguese so far:  where the accent is in the word changes what the word means and the accents are not always written in.  For example sente means you/he/she feel/s and senti means I felt. But since ti and te essentially both make the sound "chee," the only difference is the accent in sente falls on the first "e" and the accent in senti falls on the "i" (for reasons that are kind of difficult to explain in the limited time I have).  One funny story about this whole accent thing that multiple teachers have told us is that coco means coconut and the accent falls on the first "o."  Cocó on the other hand, in which the accent is the second "o," means poop.  Or maybe it’s the other way around, but either way they are very close together.  I think many Portuguese speakers have received compliments on their poop cake if the number of our teachers who did it on their mission is any kind of indication.

I hope you are all having a wonderful life!   I wish I had more to share with you but while the MTC is a great place to learn, it’s a bit monotonous so there isn't much difference week to week.

The Church is true.  Jesus Christ is my Savior and I love you all.

Elder Russell